The experts on ‘exorcism’ are literally unbelievable

Our friend Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., shows up again in a weird little story recently in which the Vatican officially denied that Pope Francis conducted an exorcism — or at least denied that he intended to conduct an exorcism.

CNN’s Dan Merica spoke with Paprocki, noting that he is “an American expert on exorcism who organized a conference on the topic in 2010.” Paprocki:

… said what Francis did on Sunday was “clearly not an exorcism as most people understand it.”

“It is just too short,” Paprocki said. Most exorcisms, Paprocki said, take 20 to 30 minutes to complete and involve reciting prayers, reading scriptures and using sacramental objects such as crucifixes and holy water.

“I doubt the pope has it memorized,” the bishop said.

“Memorized.” So it’s an incantation that has to be memorized and recited verbatim to be effective. And it involves the use of magical amulets … sorry, I mean, “sacramental objects.”

How is that not magic? What Paprocki is describing is spellcasting, not prayer. And it seems to require a lot of showmanship.

Merica’s report continues:

Jesus performs a number of exorcisms in the Bible, encounters that are recounted in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. One example: in Matthew 9:32-34, Jesus exorcises a mute shortly after healing two blind men.

“As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him,” reads the passage. “And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke.”

But whatever Jesus did in that story, it was clearly not an exorcism as Paprocki understands it. It didn’t take 20 to 30 minutes to complete. It didn’t involve reciting prayers, reading scriptures or using sacramental objects. Nothing needed to be memorized.

So where did all that abracadabra hocus-pocus razzle-dazzle come from?

Merica says, “The guidelines on Catholic exorcisms, ‘De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam,’ or ‘Of Exorcisms and Certain Supplications,’ are an 84-page document.”

I’m sure that “experts on exorcism” have studied and memorized most of what’s in those 84 pages. I’m also sure that none of it has anything to do with whatever it was Jesus did in Matthew’s Gospel when he restored a voice to a voiceless man.

Meanwhile, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, the top exorcist in the Catholic Church and head of the “International Association of Exorcists” claims to have exorcised 160,000 demons during his career.

That claim deserves a Wilt Chamberlain-sized dose of skepticism, which Jonathan Turley provides, along with some helpful arithmetic:

Amorth now claims to have sent 160,000 demons to hell — that is over 1,818 a year or roughly 5 a day or one demon every 4.8 hours every day every week every month.

For someone so very busy, he sure manages to schedule a lot of interviews.

Fr. Gabriele Amorth needs to go to confession. For lying. And not just about the number of “exorcisms” he has performed, either, but for the decades-long con he has been running as a grifter defrauding the church and the faithful.

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  • Jim Roberts

    And I can totally see Fred Phelps actually playing that game.

  • phantomreader42

    There’s not really a significant difference. Both involve repetitive sequences of speech and gesture intended to invoke supernatural power. Both fail to actually DO ANYTHING in the real world.

  • phantomreader42

    Stephen Oller:

    I’ve always seen an incantation as something that must be done exactly
    and with precision and has a specific result that should be expected.

    Exorcism is intended to accomplish a specific result, namely the casting out of a demon. According to the repeated quotes that you can’t bring yourself to acknowledge, exorcism requires a specific recitation, either from a book or from memory, which implies that it must be done with precision. Exactly how does exorcism not fit the description you gave above for an incantation? I’ll go on ahead and point out that “because I really, REALLY don’t want to admit that it’s an incantation” is not a valid answer.

  • Sorry, it is hard to, you know, take people like Paprocki seriously.

  • JustoneK

    what the hell did I just read

  • AnonaMiss

    I continue to be baffled that nearly everyone who references the sketch leaves out the punchline, spoken by the accused herself:

    It was a fair cop.

  • phantomreader42

    Stephen Oller:

    And you *would* be able to exorcise someone with just a sentence? Jesus did miracles: healing the sick, curing the incurable, giving sight to the blind. His liberation of possessed people with a simple word was one of those miracles. By your logic, priests should be able to cure people just as miraculously as Jesus did.

    According to chapter 21 of the book of Matthew, Jesus himself said that his followers would be able to do such things, including moving mountains. Since it’s evident that this is not the case, was jesus lying? Delusional? Misquoted? Imaginary? Or should we just ignore the parts of the bible that you find inconvenient? And can you find the necessary honesty to admit that’s what you’re doing?